Born in Indiana in the year of 1849, William Merritt Chase was known as an Impressionist painter, as well as a teacher. Son of a local businessman, his father employed him as a salesman in the family business. Showing an early interest in art, Chase took classes under artists like Barton S. Hays and Jacob Cox, a self-taught local artist.
Chase was convinced by his teachers after a brief time in the Navy, to further his artistic studies in New York, arriving in 1869. First, for a short time, he studied with Joseph Oriel Eaton and then in the National Academy of Design, with Lemuel Wilmarth. Soon after, in 1870, Chase had to leave New York for St. Louis, Missouri, where his family was based, to work and help his family with their declining fortune. Despite that, Chase became active in St. Louis’ art community, even winning prizes in local exhibitions, raising the interest of a wealthy St. Louis collector, who later arranged, for two years, a trip to Europe, in exchange for European art, as well Chase’s paintings, for his collection.
Having fewer distractions than in Paris, Chase settled in Munich, at the Academy of Fine Arts, under the teachings of Alexander von Wagner and Karl von Piloty. Using a loosely brushed style, popular with his instructors, Chase was mostly a figurative painter, one of those paintings, titled “Keying Up – The Court Jester”, was responsible for the beginning of his fame, winning him a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
Chase, as well as a painter, was highly regarded as a teacher, opening, in 1891, the Long Island Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art in New York, Teaching there for eleven years. The artist opened the Chase School of Art in 1896, and it became the New York School of Art two years later, working as an instructor until 1907. He also lectured at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Students League, and the Brooklyn Art, consolidating him as one of the most important teachers of American artists around the 1900s.
His renown extends in the USA as well as abroad, winning many honors. He became a member of the National Academy of Design, and president of the Society of American Artists, from 1885 to 1895, as well becoming a member of the Ten American Painters, after the death of John Henry Twachtman.
Chase’s creativity and work would decline in his later years, as Modern art was taking place in America, but he continued to teach and paint through the 1910s. During this time, Chase taught many up and coming artists, among his alumni, was artists such as Arthur Hill Gilbert, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, and Edward Hopper.
Chase died in his home in New York City, on October 25, 1916, his grave is located at the Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. His name is still regarded as an esteemed elder of American art and can be seen in most major American museums.